Help with black tie event accessories for the style impaired
January 16, 2008 8:45 PM   Subscribe

I have to attend a black tie gala on Saturday. Help with accessories, please!

I have a form-fitting, knee length, black cocktail dress to wear, but from what I've heard about last year's event, I'm concerned the dress may not be formal enough. It's sleeveless, with one-inch straps on the shoulders and a somewhat low neckline. It has ruching on the front and back, but otherwise is very simple. You can see a picture of it here.

I have two questions: (1) What kind of shoes and jewelry should I wear to dress it up, while keeping it fun? (2) What can I do to keep warm, since it's supposed to be far below freezing that night? If it helps, I'm 29 and the event is a law firm party.
posted by pitseleh to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd pair it with a colorful pashmina (color to be determined by our skintone & haircolor) and some fun non-black heels: gold/red/black&green are all god options. You canalways take the pashmina off, or leave it artfully wrapped.

Jewelry wise, I'd go with some dangly earrings, colorful if you have any that would coordinate with your shoes and/or wrap and a mid length neckace that matches the earrings.
posted by nerdcore at 8:56 PM on January 16, 2008

Ooh, that is a fantastic dress.

I don't know much about law firms; from what I can gather from my lawyer friends, the ones on the West Coast are more relaxed than those on the East Coast. I would have no idea for the East Coast.

I'd probably pair it with some strappy gold metallic sandals, and a bigass gold/ivory bangle. To keep from freezing, I'd go with a filmy, slightly translucent black shawl. Alternatively, if I were feeling kind of rock and roll, maybe a black leather jacket and bold maroon scarf and some boots.

But oh right, law firm. I guess if you're going for businessy-formal, you could also go with the closed toed shoes and cropped blazer, with some intricate dangly chandelier earrings.

Summary: I figure it's a blank canvas of a dress, so lean towards big, colorful and bold conversation-starting accessories in the gold/white/red/blue families.
posted by universal_qlc at 8:57 PM on January 16, 2008

and I really meant good options up there, not god options. I love shoes as much as the next girl, but I still haven't started worshipping them.
posted by nerdcore at 8:58 PM on January 16, 2008

What a pretty dress! I think you could dress it up with some metallic-toned shoes (silver or gold, whichever suits you best) and then choose either silver or gold jewelry, but don't overdo the jewelry. With a "little black dress," less is more when it comes to accessorizing. As far as the cold weather, choose a pretty billowy wrap or a form-fitting shrug.
posted by amyms at 8:58 PM on January 16, 2008

Is the event outdoors? If not you could just wear a long, fitted coat and check it while your at the Gala. You basically only need to wear something to keep warm while you are going to and from the event, right?

Unfortunately, I tend to think of formal attire as requiring long dresses. Does the firm have any pictures (perhaps for publicity relating to a charity?) that you could use for comparison? It's not too late to get a less controversial choice for a formal gown.

Actually, something just occurred to me. Are you a lawyer in the firm? If yes, then you need to impress your bosses and so should probably make every effort to get a dress. If not, then the as someone's date you might feel more free to go with what you have.

(It is in any case a nice cocktail dress.)
posted by oddman at 9:30 PM on January 16, 2008

For a black tie event, you'll want a wrap/pashmina instead of a shrug, and satin shoes instead of leather. Closed toed shoes will keep your feet warm and allow you to wear stockings (good for warmth and dressing up).

As far as jewelry, gold or pearls would probably play best at a law firm work event, but as amyms said, keep the jewelry simple and small. I'd go with pearl earrings and a single pearl necklace.

If you wear a necklace (you don't have to), make sure it is one that ends just under your collar bone so that it doesn't compete with the lower neckline of the dress.

p.s. nice dress, it can definitely be made formal enough!
posted by rmless at 9:31 PM on January 16, 2008

That is a fabulous dress.

My thoughts would be to go totally monochrome except for one item. Black patent leather (closed toe) pumps--not quite fuck me heels, but maybe 'buy me a drink and we'll see what happens' heels.

For your necklace.. a choker isn't right, but you don't want something too dangly. Nothing much lower than that little divot in your clavicle. Something like this with a coordinating bracelet.

And then you have your wine-red pashmina to go with. Or a silk scarf tied around your wrist.. one burst of colour (I'd think deep wine red would be best, but something vibrant without being brash would also work) to set off the whole outfit.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:35 PM on January 16, 2008

gorgeous dress.

I'll second going with simple pearls and satin shoes, and nth the pashmina.

Have you considered getting your hair done for the event? If you are worried about looking "formal" enough, having perfectly coiffed hair might help. Of course this depends upon your hair length and texture, but nothing says formal like an updo. (Just as long as you avoid the prom look.)

Oh -- and use a silver/gold clutch. Go bold with the clutch, simple with the jewelry.
posted by samthemander at 3:41 AM on January 17, 2008

yes, i think a pashmina in a beautiful solid color is a great way to go. one piece of distinctive jewelry, either a necklace or earrings. black satin sandals or simple metallic ones in the same color as your jewelry (if pearls, go with whichever metallic suits your skin best). the bag, you could go either way, because you very well may just leave it at your table all night.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:22 AM on January 17, 2008

Trust your intuition; a polyester cocktail dress is not concomitant with a black tie gala, and you shouldn't really attempt to make it be so. You will most likely be under dressed which might make you feel like you don't belong, which will make you have an awful night. Oddman a raison when he suggests you need to go for something more formal.

That said, I imagine you're beautiful and fully capable of looking like the best dressed 29 year old there, in that dress or outside. Just bring a nice coat to wear to and from, and simply check it. Also have fun, and do let us know what sort of champagne they served!
posted by oxford blue at 4:56 AM on January 17, 2008

You may be right... this dress may not be formal enough and oxford blue brings up a good point about the fabric. However, I think the style is within the realm of black tie and depending on how posh the crowd is (and how nice the poly is) you might be able to pull it off. Follow your instincts.

That being said, I'm a fan of the evening wrap (though let's be honest, it won't really keep you warm) but instead of pashmina or cashmere, I'd suggest looking for a taffeta wrap- maybe black with a really unexpected color of lining (chartreuse? amethyst?) Since taffeta is stiffer and less drapey, you can pull it around your shoulders and fold down the top inch or so to give a flash of the lining color. Secure it with a big brooch off center at one shoulder. Add simple black heels, a black clutch, and earrings in reverse proportion of the brooch. Just make sure to bring the dress with you when you're shopping for black on black. There are red blacks and blue blacks and you don't want to mix the two.
posted by Thin Lizzy at 5:24 AM on January 17, 2008

As the dress is relatively restrained, you do indeed have a lot of different ways to 'dress it up'. On top of the suggestions here, how about a 'statement handbag', e.g. a 30s style gold or silver or even bakelite clutch? It would be great to have something a little unusual as a conversation starter, as long as it doesn't look to eccentric or quirky (which I assume is inappropriate for US (?) law firm). If you want to fit in then pearls will look great. If you don't mind standing out a little, how about a hair accessory, e.g. a single real or silk flower on one side? It can look really elegant as long as you are happy to stand tall and carry it off!
posted by Marzipan at 5:40 AM on January 17, 2008

I think you can work this dress for a black-tie gala, your accessories just have to make it shine. I have (was given) a huge, almost ridiculous zirconia necklace that I can only wear to gala events like this. If you can borrow something like it, I would go for it--instant glamor. (Something like this, or this if you want to go more contemporary.)

Pair it with shoes like these (in silver)--closed toe so you can wear tights to keep warm. I'd stick with black for a wrap (doesn't have to be velvet, but the detail is nice) and a satin clutch. Definitely have your hair done--even a simple blow-out will add polish--and play up your eyes or lips with more dramatic makeup. Have fun!
posted by CiaoMela at 7:40 AM on January 17, 2008

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